On This Day: KC Royals reliever Doug Bird attacked on mound

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The KC Royals are lucky to have a long history, but there are some headline moments that can be forgotten with time. One such occurrence happened on May 18, 1973, when Oakland Athletics outfielder attacked Royals rookie reliever Doug Bird.

An unexpected brawl ensued during a KC Royals game back on May 18, 1973.

Bird and North faced off in the bottom of the eighth, with the A's leading 5-4. On the first pitch, North swung at Bird's offering, missed, and his bat slipped out of his hands and flew near the mound. While North reached for his bat, he stopped and punched Bird in the jaw. Bird dropped to the ground, but North "jumped on him and pounded him", according to then-Oakland manager Dick Williams. North was ejected for the fight and then earned a three-game suspension and a $100 fine.

The fight was unexplainable at the moment, but North gave Williams an explanation for his actions. In a 1970 Midwest League game, North and Bird faced off. Bird surrendered back-to-back home runs before North came to the plate. Frustrated, Bird nearly hit North with the first pitch and knocked him to the ground. What could be seen as a mistake by Bird was confirmed as malicious when he hit North in the ear with the next pitch. The dangerous incident stayed with North, and he wanted to get even with Bird down the road. 

Oddly enough, Williams was mad at North for not giving the Athletics a heads-up. “Why didn’t you at least tell us, and we would have gotten back at him some other way!" Williams said in his co-authored book. “This is a team that doesn’t just play together; it fights together!”

Oakland went on to win that game 5-4, en route to a 94-68 finish and winning the AL West. The Royals remained on their heels, going 88-74 and finishing second in the AL West. Bird had 20 saves as a rookie and later led the Royals in saves in 1977.

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